The concept of using thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) receptor antagonists in the management of Graves' disease is intriguing. Therefore, we investigated a TSH receptor antagonist derived from human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) with respect to TSH receptor binding, adenylate cyclase activity, thyroid hormone release, and HLA class II antigen expression in vitro and in an in vivo model. A variant of hCG, asialoagalacto-hCG, like asialo-hCG and unlike hCG itself, inhibited both 125I-bTSH binding and cAMP response to bTSH in human thyroid membranes. However, like intact or deglycosylated hCG and unlike asialo-hCG, asialoagalacto-hCG displayed a limited affinity for hepatic asialoglycoprotein receptors, a likely marker for its in vivo turnover rate. It proved capable of inhibiting bTSH-stimulated thyroid hormone release in human thyroid slices as well as in the nude mouse bearing human thyroid transplants. It also prevented bTSH induced hypertrophy of transplanted thyrocytes. Further, HLA-DR expression induced by bTSH in the presence of gamma-interferon on human thyrocytes was inhibited. In conclusion, we present evidence that asialogalacto-hCG antagonizes bTSH actions on thyroid function and HLA-DR expression in human thyroid in vitro and, more importantly, in an in vivo model. Hence, the hCG variant described here or similar agents should warrant further exploration in the study and treatment of Graves' disease.
R Hoermann, P M Schumm-Draeger, K Rehbach, K Mann